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Networking Technology

New Optical Fiber Replaces Glass With Semiconductive Core 56

cylonlover writes "Fiber optic cables can transmit over a terabyte of information per second – but that doesn't mean there still isn't room for improvement. One of those improvements, which was officially announced today, involves replacing the silica glass core of fiber optic strands with semiconductive zinc selenide. This new class of fiber optics, invented and created at Penn State University, is said to 'allow for a more effective and liberal manipulation of light.' The technology could have applications in the fields of medicine, defense, and environmental monitoring."
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New Optical Fiber Replaces Glass With Semiconductive Core

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  • They need it to monitor us criminals, terrorists, and subversives.

    • by ko7 ( 1990064 )

      Yeah, good idea. I'm pretty sure I read something about the need for this technology in an HBGary email or two...

  • media bias (Score:4, Funny)

    by managementboy ( 223451 ) on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @06:17AM (#35355300) Homepage
    ohh, again that liberal manipulation! where are those god fearing wires when you need them?
    • Commies! Upsetting the peaceful internets.. shoot 'em

  • The article only states that the wavelength can be modified easier. But will the "new fiber" have the ability to transmit over long(er) distances compared to the traditional ones?
  • by Chuq ( 8564 )

    Holy shit, don't tell Malcolm Turnbull!

  • by MasterPatricko ( 1414887 ) on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @07:11AM (#35355424) Homepage

    Article and summary are misleading ... the main application is that zinc selenide cores are better than glass at longer wavelengths (so infrared lasers - like the ones the military are very keen on - become more possible). They also suggest it would enable artistic installations to do more fancy stuff with colours.

    The potential bandwidth improvements over long-distance glass core fiber optic cables are not mentioned as significant, and it sounds like it would uneconomical anyway given that the manufacturing of these zinc selenide cores doesn't sound easy.

    • by BCMcI ( 838317 )
      Really long wavelengths is right. I worked with early versions of this in Infrared spectroscopy out to beyond 10um about 15-20 years ago. It was very brittle and hard to work with.
  • Earthing? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by grahamlord86 ( 1603545 ) on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @07:28AM (#35355466)

    If it's semi-conductive, does it need to be earthed over a long run?

    One advantage of fibre is the electrical isolation, no interference, and no potential difference between buildings.

    Does having a semicondictive core erase that?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Probably not, intrinsic (undoped) semiconductors are really poor conductors, you could probably make the approximation that any long length of it had basically infinite resistance.

  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @07:38AM (#35355490)

    The new fiber is said to "allow for a more effective and liberal manipulation of light."

    Upon hearing this news Speaker of the House John Boehner announced a bill to ban all Federal optical fiber research, saying it was further evidence of a "dangerous liberal bias in the research community."

  • I've never heard of zinc selenide so I looked it up.
    Sounds hazardous. On the plus side maybe it will kill the rats that chew through the fiber optics.
    I couldn't easily find out how abundant and cheap the material is.
    Personally I don't think you can get too much cheaper than silica but then again I've got no clue what I'm talking about.

    • "Zinc selenide (ZnSe), is a light yellow binary solid compound. It is an intrinsic semiconductor with a band gap of about 2.70 eV at 25 °C. ZnSe rarely occurs in nature. It is found in the mineral stilleite named after Hans Stille."

      "Stilleite is a selinide mineral, zinc selenide with formula ZnSe. It has been found only as microscopic grey crystals associated with other selenides. It was originally discovered in Katanga Province, Zaire in 1956 and is named for the German geologist, Hans Stille (187
      • by tmosley ( 996283 ) on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @10:32AM (#35356458)
        On SigmaAldrich, the price is a little more than twice that of silicon dioxide of similar purity (optical grade). Increased production volumes are likely to greatly reduce the price.

        Note that it is RARELY FOUND IN NATURE, and Zaire is one of the places it is found. It is, of course, incredibly simple to manufacture. Just combine zinc with selenium. The reaction is highly exothermic, so once you add a little heat to get it started, it will power itself to completion.
    • by tmosley ( 996283 )
      Sounds hazardous, does it? So does dihydrogen monoxide.

      Zinc Selenide is no more hazardous than dirt. It is not soluble in water, and as such, can't enter the bloodstream, unless you are stuffing gobs of the stuff down your throat, and even then its unlikely.

      How about we actually, you know, think about these things rather than just dismissing them because they "sound hazardous"?
      • by Rivalz ( 1431453 )

        I did think and even looked up the material.
        I even checked it twice now... still sounds hazardous to me. But like I said I could be wrong and these could be overkill warnings.

        EU Index 034-002-00-8
        EU classification Toxic (T)
        Dangerous for the environment (N)
        R-phrases R23/25, R33, R50/53
        R23/25: Toxic by inhalation and if swallowed
        R33: Danger of cumulative effects
        R50/53: Very toxic to aquatic organisms, may cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment

        S-phrases (S1/2), S20/21, S2

        • Well, compared to a lot of other stuff this isn't that bad, but then again, if it were spread across a wide area (for a big fibre network) it would be a bit of a hazard. A lot more of a hazard than silica at any rate.

          Selenium is quite rare, and zinc isn't super cheap, so it would be fairly expensive. There'll probably be some niche use for this, but it won't be knocking silica off it's perch any time soon.

  • I will care when I can get this to my house and I have a computer that can take advantage of those speeds. So I can stream my pro... err netflix movies and let the wife play her facebook games at the same time.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @08:40AM (#35355664)

    It is hard to get the CO2 laser beam into the required area of the brain, precisely because no fiber would transmit the IR (wavelength = 10.6 micrometers) light. They are using a very clumsy pivoting arm with mirrors type of device for beam guiding which limits the ability to operate using CO2 lasers to superficial parts of the brain. Given the much better coagulative properties and larger penetration depth into biological tissue of the 10.6 micrometer light as opposed to, say, currently used YAG lasers (wavelength 1 to 2 micrometers, depending on the doping atoms) I expect this discovery to enable a whole new range of laser based surgical procedures.

    The quality of scientific reporting at gizmag and all those tech-tabloids is pretty appalling, though. Seriously it is the fricken web, the thing was invented to make referring to original/more advanced sources easier. How hard it is to put a damn link to the publication or at least the uni press release!?

    • That is not restricted to science reporting. Things are comming to a point where blogers are more trustworth and informative than the professional press. At least most bloggers will link to their reference data.

    • The quality of scientific reporting at gizmag and all those tech-tabloids is pretty appalling, though.

      I think the fact that fiber optics are so important in information transmission actually muddles things in this case, causing many of us to assume this was supposed to be a competitor to glass fiber optics instead of a way to carry lower frequency energy for cutting.

  • I think this is what the wave of network improvements that the world needs. But, I wonder when it will be implemented, maybe in Asia. Here in the Philippines, we are still stuck with the 1MBPS for home usage and 12MPBS for companies, which is our total bandwidth.
  • Maybe I'm way off base, but when I read TFS I immediately thought of Light Peak / Thunderbolt.
  • 'allow for a more effective and liberal manipulation of light.'

    it is bad enough this communist secret muslim obama is turning us into a freedom destroying country by giving us better healthcare. now his vile fascist liberal agenda is to manipulate the physical properties of light itself? as a solid conservative, i will not abide it

    photons are conservative particles: conservation of mass-energy, conservation of momentum, etc. those evil liberals want to turn this good god-fearing conservative particle with p

  • Curious. Couldn't find a recent publication, but here is an article from 2006 with the same title and subject. http://tanzanite.chem.psu.edu/pdfs/806_Optoelectronics%20Reprint.pdf [psu.edu]
  • most of us are stuck with a copper last mile.

APL hackers do it in the quad.